GIMME SHELTER-Balding lawn? You better hurry!

Donnie Toms, Southern States

Q: Most of my lawn looks great, but there are a few areas where the grass has stopped growing. How can I fix these patches?

A: If you find that certain areas of your normally beautiful lawn are bare or not holding grass, you may have a grub problem. Grubs are long white worm-like creatures that eat grass roots. If you look closely youll notice pencil-size holes in the dirt.

If you do have grubs, youll have to kill them first before you begin repairing your bare patches. You can get grub killer at most lawn and garden stores; look for a picture of the little white worm on the package. Also, if you have children, ask about which products are safe.

Once youve taken care of your grub problem, or if you dont have one in the first place, then you can tackle those bare patches! First put down some good topsoil over the patches, then grass seed and cover it with hay or mulch. Before you spread the seed, rough up the dirt a little with a rake and work the seed down about a quarter-inch into the dirt, no more, no less.

If the spots are small and you don't want to buy a bale of hay or a load of mulch, you can buy a "patch kit" at your local lawn and garden store. These kits have mulch and seed you supply only the dirt. When you plant, make sure the patches get at least an inch of water a week.

Whichever option you choose, youll have to hurry, because the cut-off for planting seed is around the middle to the end of May. After that, it usually gets too hot for young grass seed roots to take.

Of course, its best to plant the seed in the fall and do your weed control in the spring. That way, the roots of your grass seed will have longer to catch on. Since much of the dirt in our area is composed of hard clay, its also a good idea to aerate those patches and mix in some gypsum to loosen the soil. But if you want to fix your bare patches now, you better get moving!

Donnie Tom